Biblical Guidance & Encouragement in Difficult Times – Written Version

This moment in time is undoubtedly a very troubled, difficult time. The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the world and destroyed the economies of many nations. It is still an open question as to whether this pestilence is the one that leads to the severe depression and famine which then leads to the war that ushers in the antichrist and the 7-year Tribulation. If not, then we have to understand this one to be the ‘shot across the bow’ that God is allowing to happen to warn people that His many prophecies about the end-times are beginning to unfold in front of our eyes.

This podcast, though, is not about the end-times. That topic is fully covered in my podcast series Apocalypse Now? available on our Gospel of Grace website at gofg.org. Instead, we are going to study how Christians should respond to this, or any, difficult crisis, as well as to draw upon the hope and encouragement that is available to us through God even in the midst of such troubling and difficult circumstances.

After all, God’s Word tells us that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil; for You Lord God Almighty are with us; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort us. And You even prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, to paraphrase the twenty-third psalm.

Many Christians seem to believe that God’s promises only apply during good times. But when the bad times come, they immediately fall into fear and seek worldly means to deal with their difficult circumstances. But no, it is in the difficult times that we must cling all the more to the many promises of God.

The very first psalm tells us that the Godly “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” There is nothing in this Scripture that says it only applies to the good times. Instead, it is in the bad times that we must hold fast to our faith and the promises of God.

This is not the time to run off in our own strength and ideas. This, more than any time before, necessitates that our steps must be ordered by the Lord, as the Word tells us in Psalm 37:23. And, we must live out the words of Psalm 119:105 that says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Instead, today we see Christians getting caught up in the politics of the day instead of focusing on their relationship with the Lord. God’s plan, God’s wrath will proceed according to the prophesies no matter how much we might try to resolve the crisis through government. In getting caught up in the political fray, many Christians wind up operating out of anger and hate, which the Bible warns opens us up to attacks from Satan.

We can still have peace with God in the midst of all this turmoil. But that requires us to operate on the foundation of love. Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, mind and soul is the most important thing we can do. And then He said that the second-most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Many Scriptures, such as those about the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37, teach that the word neighbor means everybody. Liberals and conservatives. Democrats and Republicans. Trump and Pelosi, as well as homosexuals, adulterers, liars, thieves and plain old nasty, ungodly people.

We can’t do this in our own strength, because this type of love, agape love in the Greek of the Bible, is unconditional love. We don’t have it in our sinful nature, it only comes from above. It is the love with which God loves us despite our sinfulness, and we all are sinners as it says in Romans 3:23. We are meant to shine forth the light of agape love in the midst of the growing darkness of the world, as described in Isaiah 60;1-3. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

To accomplish this we must continually abide in Christ Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on the things above, not the things of the world, as prescribed in Colossians 3:2. We must focus on Godly things, not the things of earth, on, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4;8)

The things of the world will soon enough pass away  1John 2:17 says, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” And Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away,”

Our focus must be on eternity, not this brief passage of time. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” says 2Corinthians 4:17-18.

Does this mean that Christians will completely avoid the difficulties of the day? By no means, because Jesus tells us that, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus also tells us that, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

As sojourners in this world, we experience some of its difficulties as well. This doesn’t mean that God isn’t with us, but that if we wish to partake of the glory of God, we must also partake of the sufferings of Christ Jesus, In fact, the Word tells us to, “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1Peter 4:13)

The Christian life isn’t about avoiding difficulties, but rather showing the world how we cope with them through our faith and trust in God, not fearing death because, as the Apostle Paul said, “To die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Too often we mistakenly view death as a tragedy, Instead, it is getting to our reward and home in heaven earlier than expected. It is only a tragedy if someone dies before reconciling with God through Jesus Christ.

The Bible also tells us to expect increasing persecution as we move toward the one-world government run by the antichrist as prophesied in Revelation 13. But Jesus tells us that we are blessed when we are persecuted: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

In fact, we are also told to ‘agape’ love those who persecute us: Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Most of all, during these stressful times, we must not lose hope because without the hope of our eternal home in heaven that awaits us, we risk sinking into depression and despair. This opens a wide, gaping door for the enemy of our souls to come in and oppress us and make things ten times worse.

To avoid this all-too-common scenario, we must be in the Word of God even more diligently and seeking His face, His presence, His guidance, His encouragement all the more. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 1:13)

And if you find yourself succumbing to the trials and tribulations, meditate on this Scripture: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1Peter 5:10)

The Lord God spoke encouraging words of hope to the captive Israelites in Babylon when He said, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.., thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) They were going through difficult times as we are now when the Prophet Jeremiah delivered those words of God. Unfortunately, most of them chose not to believe this, not to apply those words to their situation.

These words don’t provide a means of escaping difficulties, but rather enduring them in hope and strength from God that points forward to the eternal life of bliss awaiting us in the future. As the Word tells us in Hebrews 12:2, we must, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Just as we will do someday soon.

Not only can we have the joy of the Lord in the midst of difficulties, but the Word tells us that this joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). In the midst of the growing darkness, we must strive to produce and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as in Galatians 5:27. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” No, there are no government law or order that can prohibit us from doing so.

But in order to be longsuffering (i.e. forgiving), kind, good, faithful, gentle with self-control, we must first receive the love, joy and peace that we can only get through close communion with the Holy Spirit of God. So, cling to, and live out your faith without falling into anger, hate, despondency or bitterness. Hold fast to the hope and promises of God. As the Word says in Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


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